Voluptuous American actress Mamie Van Doren (1931) was a sex symbol of the 1950s and 1960s. Van Doren starred in several exploitation films such as Untamed Youth (1957), loaded with rock ‘n’ roll and juvenile delinquency. Her onscreen wardrobe usually consisted of tight sweaters, low-cut blouses, form-fitting dresses, and daring swimsuits. Mamie and her colleague blonde bombshells Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were known as ‘The Three M’s.’
Mamie Van Doren was born Joan Lucille Olander in Rowena, South Dakota, in 1931. She was the daughter of Warner Carl Olander and Lucille Harriet Bennett. In 1942 the family moved to Los Angeles. In early 1946, Van Doren began working as an usher at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. The following year, she had a bit part on an early television show. She also sang with Ted Fio Rito’s band and entered several beauty contests. She was married for a brief time at seventeen when Van Doren and her first husband, Jack Newman, eloped to Santa Barbara. The marriage was dissolved quickly, upon her discovery of his abusive nature. In the summer of 1949, at age 18, she won the titles Miss Eight Ball and Miss Palm Springs. Van Doren was discovered by producer Howard Hughes the night she was crowned Miss Palm Springs. The pair dated for five years. Hughes provided her with a bit role in Jet Pilot at RKO Radio Pictures. Her line of dialogue inconsisted of one word, "Look!". The following year, 1951, she posed for famous pin-up girl artist Alberto Vargas, the painter of the glamorous Vargas Girls. His painting of Van Doren was on the July 1951 cover of Esquire magazine. Van Doren did a few more bit parts in RKO films, including His Kind of Woman (John Farrow, 1951) starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. Van Doren then began working on the stage. She was a showgirl in New York in Monte Proser’s nightclub version of Billion Dollar Baby. Songwriter Jimmy McHugh discovered her for his musicals, then decided she was too good for the chorus line and should have dramatic training. She studied with Ben Bard and Bliss-Hayden. While appearing in the role of Marie in a showcase production of Come Back, Little Sheba, Van Doren was seen by Phil Benjamin, a casting director at Universal International. In 1953, Van Doren signed a contract with Universal Studios. They had big plans for her, hoping she would bring the same kind of success that 20th Century Fox had with Marilyn Monroe. Van Doren, whose signing day coincided with the inauguration of President Eisenhower, was given the first name Mamie for Ike’s wife, Mamie Eisenhower. Universal first cast Van Doren in a minor role as a singer in Forbidden (Rudolph Maté, 1953), starring Tony Curtis. Interested in Van Doren’s allure, Universal then cast her again opposite Curtis in The All American (Jesse Hibbs, 1953), playing her first major role as Susie Ward, a wayward girl who is the man-trap at a campus beer joint. In Yankee Pasha (Joseph Pevney, 1954), starring Jeff Chandler and Rhonda Fleming, she played a slave girl, Lilith. In 1955, she had a supporting role in the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Edward Buzzell, 1955) and starred in the crime-drama, Running Wild (Abner Biberman, 1955). Soon thereafter, Van Doren turned down a Broadway role in the play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, and was replaced by newcomer Jayne Mansfield. In 1956, Van Doren appeared in the Western Star in the Dust (Charles F. Haas, 1956). Though Van Doren garnered prominent billing alongside John Agar and Richard Boone, she appears rather briefly, as the daughter of a ranch owner. By this time, Van Doren had grown tired of Universal, which was only casting her in non-breakthrough roles. Therefore, Van Doren began accepting bigger roles in better movies from other studios, such as Teacher’s Pet (George Seaton, 1958) with Doris Day and Clark Gable. She appeared in some of the first movies to feature rock ‘n’ roll music, such as Untamed Youth (Howard W. Koch, 1957). The film was originally condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency, but that only served to enhance the curiosity factor, resulting in it being a big moneymaker for the studio. Van Doren became identified with this rebellious style, and made some rock records. She went to star in several bad girl movies that later became cult films. These include Born Reckless (Howard W. Koch, 1958), High School Confidential (Jack Arnold, 1958), and The Beat Generation (Charles F. Haas, 1959). After Universal Studios chose not to renew her contract in 1959, Van Doren was now a free agent and had to struggle to find work.
Mamie Van Doren became known for her provocative roles. She was in prison for Girls Town (Charles F. Haas, 1959), which provoked censors with a shower scene where audiences could see Van Doren’s naked back. As Eve in The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (Mickey Rooney, Albert Zugsmith, 1960) she wore only fig leaves, and in other films, like Vice Raid (Edward L. Cahn, 1960) audiences were clued in as to the nature of the films from the titles. Many of these productions were low-budget B-movies which sometimes gained a cult following for their high camp value. An example is Sex Kittens Go to College (Albert Zugsmith, 1960), which co-starred Tuesday Weld and Mijanou Bardot – Brigitte’s sister. Mamie also appeared in foreign productions, such as the Italian crime comedy Le bellissime gambe di Sabrina/The Beautiful Legs of Sabrina (Camillo Mastrocinque, 1959) with Antonio Cifariello, and the Argentine film Una americana en Buenos Aires/The Blonde from Buenos Aires (George Cahan, 1961) with Jean-Pierre Aumont. Van Doren took some time off from her career and came back to the screen in 1964. That year she played in the German Western musical Freddy und das Lied der Prärie/In the Wild West (Sobey Martin, 1964), starring Freddy Quinn and Rik Battaglia. Tommy Noonan convinced Van Doren to appear in 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt (Tommy Noonan, 1964). Van Doren had turned down Noonan’s previous offer to star in Promises! Promises!, in which she would have to do nude scenes. She was replaced by Jayne Mansfield. In 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt, Mamie did a beer-bath scene, but is not seen nude. She posed for Playboy to promote the film. Van Doren next appeared in The Las Vegas Hillbillys (Arthur C. Pierce, 1966) which co-starred Jayne Mansfield. It was the only time two of ‘The Three M’s’ appeared together in a film. A sequel was titled Hillbillys in a Haunted House, but Van Doren turned this role down, and was replaced by Joi Lansing. She appeared in You’ve Got to Be Smart (Ellis Kadison, 1967), and the sci-fi film, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968), directed by the young Peter Bogdanovich (as Derek Thomas). In this film astronauts land on Venus and encounter dangerous creatures and meet sexy Venusian women who like to sun-bathe in hip-hugging skin-tight pants and seashell brassieres. In 1968, she was offered the role of a murder victim in the independent horror film The Ice House as a replacement for Mansfield, who died the previous year. She turned the offer down, however, and was replaced by Sabrina. During the Vietnam War, she did tours for U.S. troops in Vietnam for three months in 1968, and again in 1970. Van Doren also developed a nightclub act and did live theater. She performed in stage productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Dames at Sea at the Drury Lane Theater, Chicago, and appeared in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and The Tender Trap at the Arlington Park Theater. In the 1970s, Van Doren performed a nightclub act in Las Vegas as well. Van Doren had a supporting role in the Western The Arizona Kid (Luciano B. Carlos, 1970). Since then, Van Doren has appeared only in cameo appearances in low-budgeted films. To this date Van Doren’s last film appearance was a cameo role in the comedy Slackers (Dewey Nicks, 2002). Van Doren’s guest appearances on television include Jukebox Jury, What’s My Line, The Bob Cummings Show, The Jack Benny Show, Fantasy Island, Burke’s Law, Vega$, and L.A. Law. Van Doren released her autobiography, Playing the Field, in 1987 which brought much new attention and proved to be her biggest media splash in over 25 years. Since the book’s publication she has often been interviewed and profiled and has occasionally returned to acting. Van Doren has been married five times. Her first marriage was to sportswear manufacturer Jack Newman whom she married and divorced in 1950. Her second marriage was to bandleader, composer and actor Ray Anthony whom she married in 1955. They had one son, Perry Ray Anthony (1956). The couple later divorced in 1961. When Van Doren’s early 1960s, highly publicized, on-again off-again engagement to baseball player Bo Belinsky ended in 1964, she married baseball player Lee Meyers in 1966. They were divorced in 1967. Her fourth marriage was to businessman Ross McClintock in 1972. They met while working on President Nixon’s reelection campaign; the marriage was annulled in 1973. Since 1979 she has been married to Thomas Dixon, an actor and dentist.
Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.
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